Eating a bifana in Portugal is like a right of passage for any food traveler. Culinary travelers know Portugal for all sorts of Portuguese sandwiches, but the bifana is certainly our favorite.
Finding the best bifana in Lisbon took us a lot of time, and a lot of Portuguese pork sandwiches, but it was worth it in the end.
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A Guide To Bifanas In Portugal
Although it’s easy to find bifanas in Lisbon, not all bifanas are created equal. We’ve eaten a lot of bifanas during our trips to Portugal over the years, so we should know.
In this post, we will explain exactly what is a bifana and how we rate the bifanas we’ve tasted in Lisbon. Then, we share our recommendations on where to find the best bifana in Lisbon. This is what it means to be a food traveler!
What Is A Bifana Sandwich
Many of the most famous dishes in Portugal are considered snacks. This can include petiscos, small snacks mostly referred to as the Portuguese version of tapas (a comparison the Portuguese are not fond of).
This also includes all sorts of pastries (like the famous pastel de nata) and sandwiches. Locals eat these sandwiches mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or sometimes for a quick lunch.
Cooks prepare the bifana sandwich on papa seco, a Portuguese bread roll. They stuff the roll with a few pieces of marinated pork loin or pork cutlets. The juice from the pork drizzles onto the bread.
Although travelers can find a Portuguese bifana throughout the country, the original came from Alentejo, in the southeast of the country. There are a handful of bars that claim to have originated the Portugal bifana, but for travelers, the goal is to find the best bifana!
Other Portuguese Sandwiches
There are a few very important Portuguese sandwiches that people must try when traveling in Portugal. The prego is a beef sandwich served with mustard. Many travelers recognize this sandwich as the dessert when eating at Cervejaria Ramiro, our favorite Lisbon restaurant. Next, travelers must try the leitao, a sandwich made with roast suckling pig.
The Francesinha is another famous Portuguese sandwich that you can eat in Lisbon, although it originated and is most associated with Porto. The Francesinha is made with a few types of meat, including pork sausages and ham, with cheese melted on top. Then it is slathered with a sauce and topped with an egg.
Each of these sandwiches is great in their own right, but for us the Bifana Lisboa is king.
What Makes A Good Portuguese Bifana
The bifana seems simple, a few slices of pork on a Portuguese roll. But, there is so much more to it than that. It’s a cheap, humble, almost working man sandwich, often served with a beer. The Portuguese pork is sautéed in garlic and seasoning until tender. The meat is served on a Portuguese roll so that the oil and seasonings soak in.
Then, it is served with mustard and chili oil. I hate to say that an entire dish comes down to only one thing, but here it’s the seasoning. No, wait, it’s the quality of the pork. No, wait, it’s the freshness of the bread. Yes, just a few ingredients but so great. Every place you eat bifanas in Lisbon they will taste different.
What we look for in a great Portuguese bifana is the tenderness of the pork, the freshness of the bread, and the marinade. I love a juicy bifana, with a little extra sauce that settles into the bun. I prefer slightly thinner meat, which to me increases the ratio of sauce to meat, making the sandwich even tastier. But, part of judging a great bifana is the experience and the atmosphere.
Pork. Meat. Bread. So simple, and so tasty. Our history of the bifana, of course, requires a story.
Our First Experience With The Bifana Sandwich in Lisbon
When we arrived in Lisbon our first visit, our foodie friend, Chrissie, emailed us some food suggestions. She reminded us that Anthony Bourdain was in Lisbon for No Reservations and that he went to a place called O Trevo.
Tony ate the Portuguese version of a Portuguese pork sandwich, with mustard and chili oil – a bifana. We figured this might be a Bourdain experience within our budget, so we found O Trevo our first day in Lisbon. It did not disappoint.
Eating At O Trevo
At first, we were slightly intimidated. The place was busy, with a buzz to it. Plenty of patrons were knocking back coffee, pastries, and soup either at the tables or at the stand-up counter – an institution in Lisbon.
We did not know what to order, but found a server who spoke English enough for us to say “pork sandwich” and “beer.” What greeted us was heaven on a bun, known in Lisbon as a bifana.
The sliced Portuguese roll was fresh, soft, and melt in your mouth delicious. In between the bread were two thin slices of pork that were cooked in oil, which soaked into the bread.
As condiments, they provided bright yellow mustard and a homemade chili-infused oil, which drenched the bread and ran down my hands. I did not care. I also didn’t care that they served my bifana on a child’s dinner plate.
Our First Experience In Pork Heaven
Each and every bite was accompanied by an involuntary “mmmmm” from my mouth. I felt like Homer Simpson with a donut and drool running down the chin. We washed the bifana down with a beer, or cerveja, and left with our lips feeling a little tingly. As gluttony is our favorite sin, we returned to the scene of the crime multiple times during that first visit to Lisbon.
We ate at O Trevo our first day in Lisbon. And, the following day. And, twice on day 3. And, one last time before heading to the airport on day 4. Some may call this an obsession with pork, or pork OCD, but each time I ate the bifana, no matter how not hungry I was, that same involuntary food-gasmic moan escaped my lips.
On day 3, after our second bifana, while walking back to our apartment, we walked through a vegan protest – people in all black silently standing in protest – meat is murder. I could not believe the irony.I could still feel the tingle of the chili oil and the flavor of the pork juices on my lips.
I am sorry if this offends any vegetarians, but we all make choices for ourselves on how to live our lives. My life involved 4 days and 6 of the best pork sandwiches I have ever eaten. Simplicity at its finest. The bifana has made it onto my “death row” menu.
Portugal Food Guide Pro Tip: Ordering a Bifana
We are pretty classic when ordering a bifana, in part because we want to be able to make an equal comparison to be able to provide advice on the best bifanas in Lisbon. But, you can order different kinds of bifana sandwiches, which are normally listed on a menu on the wall.
Bifanas Grelhadas Com Queijo: a grilled pork steak with cheese
Bifanas Grelhadas Com Ovo: a grilled pork steak with egg (we always find sandwiches taste better with an egg on top)
Bifanas Grelhadas Com Ovo E Quejo: a grilled pork steak with egg and cheese
For a classic order um bifana or doix bifanas if ordering one or two of these tasty pork sandwiches.
How much is a bifana in Lisbon? The bifanas generally range in price from €1.80-€2.50.
Where To Get The Best Bifana In Lisbon
We’ve eaten some of the best bifanas in Lisbon, but they are popular across the country. And, there are some favorite places to eat bifanas in Porto. They are fairly similar to the Lisbon bifana.
Over the years and through many visits to Lisbon we’ve eaten a lot of bifanas. Yes, we always visit O Trevo, but we have some other favorites now that we try to hit each visit.
O Afonso das Bifanas Lisbon
This is our number one choice for the best bifana in Lisbon. It’s a small place, with only standing room for about a half dozen people. In the past, it’s been run by a husband and wife, but during our last visit, it seems to be operated by a few younger guys, perhaps family. It’s definitely a local men’s bar, although tourists have started to find it.
Their bifana recipe includes whole cloves of garlic and a whopping amount of pork lard added to the broth. The bread is soft and fresh. The pork slices are a little more thin, and to me, that makes them more tasty and more tender.
The juice drips down from pork onto the bread. I like their mustard too, which has a slightly darker color to it than some of the other places. At Afonso, instead of a beer, I normally order the bifana with a glass of vinho verde poured from the tap.
O Afonso das Bifanas: Rua de Madalena 146, Lisbon. Afonso is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am – 7:30 pm, from 8:30 – 1:30 on Saturday. They close Sundays.
O Trevo Lisbon – The Anthony Bourdain Bifana Restaurant
I know this is not the “original” bifana bar in Lisbon, but it kind of is for me. It’s a pilgrimage for Bourdain fans and tops every list of the top bifanas in Lisbon.
For me, there are better bifanas. It’s tender, but a little less juicy and a little less flavorful than others.
All that said, we will visit O Trevo every time we travel to Lisbon because, for us, it’s our history and our tradition. We recognize the same people working behind the bar, and they are all always friendly.
Is it the best? Probably not, but O Trevo is definitely a must-visit bar in Lisbon.
O Trevo Lisbon: Praca Luis de Camoes 48, Lisbon. O Trevo is probably the easiest place to visit for tourists because it is so centrally located. In addition to the bifanas, they are a full-service bar and also offer pretty good options for a daily “prata do dia” or plate of the day. It is larger than the other bifana bars, making it a little easier to visit as well. O Trevo is open 7 am – 10 pm Monday through Saturday. They close Sundays.
O Triângulo da Ribeira Lisboa
We’ve been wanting to try O Triângulo da Ribeira but always have a hard time fitting it in when they are open. This working man’s bar is located behind the now-famous Time Out Market.
I am sure that they’ve been there for years and operate as the local bar and cafe for the people who work at the Ribeira market. It’s small, with room for about a half dozen people. We made a special trip down, in the rain and the cold, to hit this place on our last day in Lisbon. I am so glad we did.
O Triângulo da Ribeira is right up there with Afonso on our favorite bifanas in Lisbon. O Triângulo slices the pork a little thicker than at Afonso, but even so, it is so tender and juicy. We saw him prepare his pork, mixing white wine, salt, and a little olive oil in a plastic bin.
He says he marinates his pork for about two hours before cooking. And, it shows. Our bifana sandwich and beer went down quite nicely. I will be adding them onto our rotation every time we visit Lisbon.
O Triangulo da Ribeira: R. Ribeira Nova 48, Lisbon. They don’t really have a web presence, nor hours listed. From experience, O Triangulo closes Sunday and Monday, but otherwise, probably keep to the market hours.
FAQs – Portuguese Sandwich – Bifana
For us, a bifana is the perfect mid-morning snack. There is something to note, though, if traveling to Lisbon over a weekend. Most of the best bars that serve bifanas close on Sunday.Some close Saturday afternoon. So, check your schedule as soon as you land and compare it to the hours listed above to ensure you can taste a bifana in Lisbon.
Another popular Portuguese sandwich is the prego, which can be found at Cervejaria Ramiro. The prego is a beef sandwich, also served on a soft white roll. The bifana is juicier because of the marinade.
It’s hard to say, but it’s pretty darn close!
This is not as easy as finding the bifana sandwich in Lisbon, or elsewhere in Portugal. Portuguese restaurants are not as common as Spanish restaurants around the world. There are a few areas of the world where there are traditional Portuguese restaurants, like in Macau or even Newark, NJ. Otherwise, to eat the “bifanas Lisboa” you might need to travel to Lisbon!
McDonald’s! Yes, McDonald’s has offered the McBifana, but I’ve never tried it.
Looking For Great Food and Wine Tours in Portugal?
There’s so much to eat in Portugal, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to eat and drink in Portugal.
To help with planning what to eat in Lisbon, check out our recommendations for the best Lisbon food tours, cooking classes, and wine tours.